South Asia

Taliban launch attacks along north Pakistan border

Map of Pakistan

At least 11 soldiers and 24 militants have been killed in clashes near the Afghan border in north-west Pakistan, officials have said.

About 150 Taliban launched co-ordinated attacks against five Frontier Corps checkpoints in Mohmand tribal region, they said.

The Taliban said only two of their fighters had died.

The military has launched offensives in the region in recent months, but insurgent attacks have continued.

Amjad Ali Khan, administrator of Mohmand, confirmed that 11 soldiers had been killed following initial reports that three had died. He said 12 other soldiers had been injured.

Mr Khan said the Frontier Corps paramilitary troops had "repulsed" the militant attacks in the Baizai area which began at 0200 local time.

"The troops responded with artillery fire and raids by helicopter gunships, killing 24 militants," he said.

"Seven of their bodies are in our possession."

He said that the fighting ended later Friday morning.

However, Sajjad Mohmand, spokesman for the Taliban in Mohmand, told the BBC that only two insurgents had been killed in the clashes.

He said they had captured two soldiers alive and held the bodies of six others.

Security officials have rejected the claim, saying no soldiers are unaccounted for.

Mohmand is a transit point for insurgents crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan and a stronghold of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says militants are proving that they can still carry out attacks, despite the military campaign against them.

Earlier this month, a twin suicide bomb attack at a government compound in Mohmand's main town of Ghalanai left 43 people dead. Local officials had been meeting tribal elders to discuss forming an anti-Taliban militia at the time of the blasts.

In July, another twin suicide bombing attack, also targeting tribal elders, killed more than 100 people in the village of Yakaghund in Mohmand.

Mohmand is one of seven Pakistani tribal areas.

Pakistan has faced growing pressure from Washington to launch a major ground offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan, considered a fortress for militants fighting US-led troops in Afghanistan.

Islamabad has denied accusations that it is not doing enough to fight the Taliban in the restive north-west of the country.

It says more than 2,400 Pakistani soldiers have been killed fighting Islamist insurgents since 2002.

Pakistan supported the Taliban regime in Afghanistan from 1996-2001, but later became an ally of the US when it led an invasion in 2001.